Don’t you just hate it when your peaceful seaside life in a small fishing village community is completely torn apart by an alien robot invasion? That’s exactly what happens in Planet of Lana, and with her people (and her sister) taken captive, there’s nothing for Lana to do but chase after and try to free them. Luckily she makes a little friend along the way.
Planet of Lana drops into the familiar platforming adventure mould, the ceaseless journey from left to right broken up only by some light platforming, environmental puzzles, and avoiding dangerous creatures and bulbous spider-like robots.
Accompanying her on this journey is the small black cat-like creature that Lana names Mui – all of the animals of this planet are made of pure blackness with little white eyes, but this species is by far the cutest. Bonded to her through a shared moment of peril, Mui quickly becomes an utterly faithful companion, able to leap up to higher ledges to nudge ropes free, plop down among dark tendrils that trigger another creature into some form of action, and even trigger the odd switch for you. On the other hand, you’ll have to work around Mui’s dislike of water…
As you forge ahead, you’ll come across mysterious ruins that imbue the pair of you with new abilities, uncovering some of the world’s lore and backdrop within a wordless narrative. While there are a small handful of brainteasing set pieces to puzzle over, and a slight element of trial and error to get through some of the stealthy robot and creature encounters and instant deaths when caught, the emphasis feels more on the journey than the puzzling here. You’ll spend long sections of this roughly four-hour game simply holding right and running, but then that leans into one of this game’s main strengths.
From the moment it was first revealed, Planet of Lana’s art style shone through, with the sumptuous painterly nature of the environments and the gorgeous vistas that it depicts, and the inky blackness of the creatures that live here. That holds true to the final game and there are so many moments that you just want to soak in as Lana and Mui trek across the world, whether that’s the instances where they just sit down for a moment to let you appreciate the view, or when the camera pulls back to show off the scale of their adventure.
The game does cling onto the thick greenery, grass and rocky outcroppings of the opening a little too long, returning to it several times after a trek underground or through some ancient ruins. It makes it feel like you’re retreading very similar ground before the second half of the game rapidly shifts to different biomes and more mechanical environments that, once again, show off the strength of the Wistfully’s art direction. I just wish that, on Xbox Series X and with modern SSDs, the game could avoid fades to black for cutscenes and chapter transitions.
The sound design and soundtrack are just as wonderful in Planet of Lana. The human characters speak in a fully original language, albeit one that is rather constrained as Lana calls out commands to Mui and only has limited interactions with people, and this goes hand in hand with the burbling animalistic noises, the angry camera-like sounds of the robots, and more.
It’s a joy when the orchestral soundtrack by Takeshi Furukawa and The Hungarian Studio Orchestra kicks in, and with Siobhan Wilson collaborating and singing the songs. It really gives this the feel of a classic sci-fi epic, a tender and plaintive tone to some of the key motifs that return time and again, but with noble trumpets, the warmth of french horns, and more at other times. There’s the warmth that you only ever get from a full orchestra and this is the kind of soundtrack that I’ll be listening to for months to come.